It’s the end of April and it was 35 degrees last night. The price of oil continues to skyrocket and I’m still heating my house halfway through spring.
The cold does not help the poor circulation in my hands which has intensified in my left hand because my mallet finger restricts my movement.
My hands are painfully cold, except when Andrew is making me curse him in my head at Apex Training. Today was leg day, and I was so tired that when I came home and let the dog out I turned around and lost my balance and slammed right into the brick wall between my mud room and my kitchen.
Nala, my six-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo, started shaking and plucking her feathers today. Nothing in her environment has changed except the neighbor’s dog has been barking nonstop all day. The teenager believes his distress causes her anxiety.
Speaking of the teenager, she made this thick chocolate chip cookie/blondie dessert that I topped with ice cream that Sobaka’s mom brought home from Penn State when we dog sat last weekend.
Before the teenager brought home our dog, I would never criticize a dog owner, but now that I see the difference between different dog care styles, I feel back for dogs that aren’t spoiled like Sobaka and Bean.
And I don’t know how Sobaka’s mom does it— that dog is a bed hog.
But now an update on my mallet finger:
Stitch Fix has been amazing. Because my specialist at OAA took a week to return my paperwork and then didn’t properly fill it out, the onus was on me to find jobs I could do to not hurt myself. It turned out I can QC just fine— I hit 92% just fine.
But here’s the thing… my specialist knows hands, he doesn’t know me. I don’t think he heard me when I said I have cerebral palsy and that I work 10 hours a day in a warehouse. I’m just not sure that environment is safe for me right now,
Why do I say this? Because this week drove home to me how much I rely on my left side for stability. By forcing me to work 90% on the right, I am struggling to keep my right hip in place.
I am so stiff by the end of the work day. I also end up pinching and slamming my right fingertips and by the end of the day my left fingers I can use are swollen and sore.
And I fold 750 clothing items a day, handle 150 boxes and rip open probably 500 plastic bags. That’s a lot of fingers moving.
Once I consider the risk of accidentally losing my cast and bending my finger (which would extend my healing time) and adding the increased fall risk of mine because I am aggravating known issues with my balance and mobility, I just don’t feel safe.
This is a horribly stressful feeling.
I’m going to talk with my family doctor about it. I already mentioned it to my therapist, because I wanted to confirm my thoughts were rational and not whiny or emotional.
And last but not least, cats. Misty caught a mouse! Video here.
It’s been a demanding week with my body in revolt for most of it.
I’ve succumbed to some bad moods but for the most part kept it together— and even enjoyed another pizza outing with the teenager and my blind friend Nan where we have officially determined that Nan and I think Nicolosi’s eggplant parmesan is our new favorite pizza. The teenager is in the chicken-bacon-ranch camp.
The teenager has been housesitting and her own dog F. Bean Barker seems to prefer sleeping in her crate downstairs to being in the teen’s bedroom alone with the two foster cats, Mars and Khloe.
It has taken a few nights of sleep deprivation to discover this.
And it’s cold. And rainy. So the dog and I are both grumpy.
But this week I have started a new routine— getting up at 4:15 am so I can write for 30 minutes before work. In addition to my publishing business (Parisian Phoenix Publishing), I also need to commit to my writing.
Speaking of commitment, I’ve been trying to buy a bookshelf all week.
But I did buy a microphone for the business so that hopefully we can record some authors reading their work and have discussions with and for writers as part of our marketing material.
Nan and I got together today to run errands, see what was going on with Axiom, drink chai and read poetry. The best publication we looked at today was definitely *82 Review which featured Nan’s poem, “Brewing Chai.”
The magazine is very very diverse in its style and I am very excited to read more.
One of the best pieces I’ve read in a long time is “A Child in Need of Services” (a flash submission) where the speaker talks about the origins of their three talents, with such humor and joyful voice that you just don’t see the ending coming. The author is Amanda Skofstad.
We retrieved Nan’s laundry and I parked the car at the high school and walked the half mile in the cold rain (uphill as the teen would remind us) to the gym so the teen could have the car after school to go to work.
But I made it to the gym… for session 73 at Apex Training with my trainer Andrew. I love his current approach— a lot of back and shoulder based weight training for the upper body and creative more-or-less body weight exercises for the lower body so we can develop some muscle memory in those body parts that don’t understand how to play on a team. We also did some hex bar work and other stuff. I always feel good when I leave.
But by far, the hardest exercise for me today was wide stance squats. That had me struggling, concentrating, breathing and thinking I wouldn’t make it through. For squats. Bench squats at that.
Let me explain.
My cerebral palsy makes this the ultimate torture. Remember— my quads, hamstrings and calves never relax. My heel tendons are too short and my ankles don’t have the right mobility. My knees point in because of my femoral anteversion, and that just means the top of my femurs go into my hip sockets at the wrong angle.
So when I do that wide stance bench squat, I need to practice the most muscle control I can. I have to plant my feet and manually rotate my toes to what feels like uncomfortably out. And when I rise, I need to maintain balance, push with my upper region of my legs and force my hips out so they can force my knees out.
It’s damn hard.
But I can feel those body parts trying to cooperate and that’s exciting. If Andrew and I had more money and could work less at traditional full time jobs, I would love to train every day.
I posted this to Facebook:
I came home and stood in the rain for ten minutes holding an umbrella over the dog and she still wouldn’t pee. I took a shower, got dressed and gathered laundry. The washer wouldn’t work. My seven month old washer.
So I made myself an omelet of peppers, two eggs, heaps of Black Bear Mexican turkey, a slice of black pepper Cooper, a half slice of horseradish cheddar and piled it on my last slice of ShopRite bakery seeded rye.
The teenager came home and I googled the error code on the washer and she moved the whole wash tower and ripped the rear access panel off. When the drain pipe wasn’t back there, I had her read me the exact model number so we could Google again. We found this video, by a man with nice hands: Fixing the washer.
The teenager watched about half a minute, grabbed a bucket and ran to the front access panel. Within seconds, she had removed the whole plug apparatus and flooded the bathroom with gallons of wash water.
“How am I supposed to get that into a bucket?” she asked.
I continue watching the video. There’s a tube you empty first.
“There’s a tube!” she yells.
Oh, Pop Pop on the Mountain, wherever he is in the afterlife, is laughing his ass off now.
The apparatus is clogged with poly fill, a metal ring, quarters and other nonsense. That is fixed now. Drain hoses cleaned. Wash loads continue.
Sometimes my journals are nothing but to do lists and shopping lists. But I like lists— even if I never refer to them again, the act of making a list allows me to stop thinking about things.
If I want to refer to it later, I know where to look, but I no longer have to worry about forgetting as if I want to remember or revisit items from an earlier day I can but I am not staring at a list focusing on what needs to be addressed versus what I actually did.
Many people make lists to receive the satisfaction of checking off the things that are done. I don’t do that. Sometimes I do, but now it’s more like I am acknowledging the list versus trying to conquer it.
I used to finish my list every day or stress over the things I didn’t get to, and on top of that— the list never made me feel better or more in control.
But I also received the cover for Not An Able-Bodied White Man with Money, which I will be blogging about on the Parisian Phoenix site this weekend.
And I have a 4 p.m. meeting today with another author who I have been hoping would join our family.
Now if only I could finalize some of our business documents to really move the projects forward.
Yesterday (Voluntary Time Off) and evaluating my health
Life at Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy has been odd lately. We’re shipping something like 8,000 fixes a day and having the opportunity for voluntary time off.
Last week, I performed at pretty damn close to 100% without pain or significant mobility issues. This week, issues started mildly during my Sunday shift and deteriorated Monday & Tuesday, leaving me at 80% and crying myself to sleep. I talked about this here.
I’m very much wondering if my menstrual cycle has something to do with it, as the Mirena IUD has done miracles for my pain and issues in that department but has made my cycle irregular. I think my body is trying to menstruate later than usual.
I was taking inventory of my recent balance, mobility and functioning issues as today I had my annual “wellness visit” that the office rescheduled from last week.
I took VTO yesterday to allow myself some rest and some time as life (and grief from my father’s death two months ago) has gotten chaotic and overwhelming.
And I made the teenager and I grilled cheese as I had promised to do, and the child acted like I had prepared filet mignon for her.
I have a feeling I will be repeating that after school today.
We also watched Miranda Sings Live on Netflix. The teenager went through a time when she watched the show, so that was weird. It always amazes me how much talent it takes to perform badly.
The doctor today
I have spent more than a decade assembling a talented and caring medical team, so now I can confidently say any issues with my medical treatment stem from the system and not from my doctors.
The doctor and his resident agreed with my assessment that it’s time for me to get into the physiatrist and that their office will advocate for me on that as well, and that my instincts and approaches are correct.
I learned that women more so than men tend to favor one side when they move or stand. As women age, this tendency can create problems. That means this is a problem normal people have and not just a result of cerebral palsy.
And most interestingly… I learned that women more so than men tend to favor one side when they move or stand. As women age, this tendency to let’s say ‘lean’ can create problems, just like what I am experiencing now with my right hip and right leg/foot. That means this is a problem normal people have and not just a result of cerebral palsy.
I reiterated to them that I do know I need to lose 20 pounds, but that we have some issues to address before that.
The psychology ofemotional and physical pain
When I was turning 40, I embarked on a journey to lose five pounds and gain muscle. I inadvertently lost 30 lbs and ended up a skeleton and regained some weight to look like this:
That was about 30 pounds ago. I have no need to be that lean again, but I’d really like to see 135 lbs again— which means I need to lose 20 lbs.
I told my doctor and his resident— I know I can’t eat an entire bag of cheese puffs or Wawa bowl of mac and cheese and brisket after dinner. But I’m struggling with depression from my body pain and my father’s unexpected death.
I’m grateful I haven’t turned to alcohol like many in my family, but I have “given in” to food as a psychological crutch.
I pay almost $300 a month for a personal trainer, but I can’t work as hard as I want to because I hurt and I feel like I need answers as to how to move my body so it doesn’t hurt. Because if I could exercise more and move more, I wouldn’t sabotage myself by eating garbage (or if I did, I would be active enough to balance it).
But right now, when I come home from a ten-hour shift with my body twisted and aching badly, and wishing I could call my dad so he could make me laugh and tell me how much it sucks to get old, I grab junk food because it’s the last pleasure I have.
I can’t move without pain so if I’m going to be forced to get fat and lazy I might as well enjoy the process.
These are ugly thoughts and I know that, but I’m being honest.
The fun stuff: errands with Nan
After leaving my primary care doctor, I called Nan as we were scheduled to do some errands together. We stopped at Wawa for some hot caffeinated beverages (cafe con leche for me and vanilla chai for Nan).
Among other stops we visited Park Avenue Market and Deli, one of our favorite haunts known for its deli, salads and meats.
Although I am once again contemplating more of a vegan diet, which will make the teenaged carnivore wince, I am not ready to commit until I feel better. We must achieve discipline before we enact change.
I never got around to meal planning yesterday so I didn’t have a list. I ended up spending $36.89 and I think the results will work.
I purchased: two packs of beef jerky, one small box of minute rice for the teen, three or four teeny tiny bags of Wise snacks from popcorn to potato chips, meatballs, the biggest damn carrot I’ve ever seen, frozen vegetable medley with potatoes and garlic herb sauce, sweet potato crinkle cut fries, pork roll, Lebanon bologna, liverwurst, turkey, olive salad, a store-baked pig ear for the dog and something called “hot pepper shooters”— round hot peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone.
Rough meal plan
My rough meal plan for the next week or so is:
Meatballs and green peppers, either as a sandwich or in pasta
vegetable lasagna still in the freezer from last week
Burgers and fries, using ground beef from the freezer and the sweet potato fries
Cold tortellini salad with roasted carrot, olive salad and seasoned broccoli (broccoli is in the freezer)
Pork roll and egg sandwiches
Chicken and the frozen vegetables and rice or other grain
PS— we also welcomed a new foster into the house. Her name is Babs. Meet her in this video. I need to make her a page.
Yesterday I cleaned a lot of my downstairs and had a relatively good work out at Apex. I haven’t felt incredibly strong lately, but my IUD must be working because I’m not in pain.
I had a good week at work, so cleaning, working on Parisian Phoenix projects and watching Cobra Kai suited me just fine yesterday.
I even found two of the dog’s Kong balls under the couch which made for a very happy dog.
Today, I was supposed to have my annual physical but my doctor’s office called yesterday and rescheduled for next week— which also means another week without answers from my CT scan and physiatrist referral. Neither the neurologist nor the physiatrist’s office has called me back.
And I need a doctor that can help me understand the motion and mechanics of my body, and not just its individual parts.
Today I scrubbed the exterior of the stove and did dishes. Then I went to help my blind friend Nan with some errands and grocery shopping.
We made plans to pick up some pizza at Little Caesars so Nan could try the Batman Calzony. No matter how I tried I couldn’t explain what it was to the blind lady. So we bought one.
But we had time to kill before the teenager got out of school even after we put groceries away. We grabbed the dog and got drinks and hash browns (for the dog) at Dunkin.
And then we surprised the teenager with the dog at school.
Then Joan stopper by to drop off some hand-me-down magazines and erotica, cupcakes and photos that Joan needed us to sort.
Now, I’m cuddling with Louise, watching Gotham Garage and enjoying kitten photos.
It’s Wednesday night— which is my Friday! The Bizzy Hizzy has been a tizzy of Covid cases during this mandatory overtime week.
I’m doing my eight hours of overtime on Saturday.
Tomorrow I’m returning to the gym—the pandemic has also altered my training schedule.
And tomorrow, Georgie gets adopted! Yes, Georgie, our lovable former community cat from downtown Allentown, will be going home to a family where she will be the only pet.
I’m told Louise has an approved adoption application— but this is her third so I am not as optimistic as I should be. The person who applied for her wants two cats so FURR has suggested Khloe also be considered.
If these three cats get adopted— after Danu, Brigid and Aîné all getting adopted since December— I may weep tears of joy.
This week my body experienced all sorts of aches and pains, but I still managed to fold what I felt was a respectable amount of clothes for Stitch Fix. And today was our monthly employee luncheon— chicken Caesar wraps, tomato soup and carrot cake.
And on our final break of the day, everyone from my old shift got sweatshirts.
It’s kinda silly, but at the same token, it commemorates a special era of my life and celebrates the camaraderie we had on second shift. And believe it or not, even though we are scattered among the day shift, we still function as a team.
After work, the teenager invited me to Tic Toc family restaurant where we enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches.
Ingram finally shipped Darrell Parry’s poetry book (Twists: Gathered Ephemera). And several other Parisian Phoenix titles are coming together. Perhaps as many as three titles releasing before the end of February.
Speaking of Parisian Phoenix, I emailed my class correspondent at Lafayette College and he ordered my first two novels.
And finally, side note… Actor Tim Daly was on the most recent episode of the podcast Hypocondriactor. I love Tim Daly. And I found myself comparing him to Anthony Stewart Head, you know… Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I was specifically comparing Daly’s character on Madame Secretary to Head’s role as the school librarian/watcher on Buffy. Both were nerdy academics with interests in obscure topics.
This new work week is certainly moving quickly although each day I come home more exhausted. I’m hurting more once I get home, but I’m fine for the first 9+ hours of my shift. If you don’t know what I’m talking about read these:
The teenager kept my car as the last two of our fosters who needed to be spayed went to Canyon River Run today. That would be Mama Danu and her tabby kitten Baile from the Celtic Pride.
She hoped to bake cookies for the platters Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab plans to distribute to the many vets who assist the organization. Her eighth grade boyfriend came over to lend a helping hand so she also taught him to make bread.
Meanwhile I just kept dreaming of an iced cold Coke Zero. And an interesting thing happened — I got to work and there was a 4-pack of 20-ounce Coke Zero bottles with a post-it note declaring them free.
I brought them home. My guess is someone didn’t realize Coke Zero had been relabeled in the same red as classic Coke.
Which my metrics tanked by the end of the day which had me chugging this at 3 p.m. break.
My 4 p.m., I was trembling and about to cry. Do. Not. Repeat.
I treated the teenager to dinner at Tic Toc so she could get her last pay check. We both ate too much.
I did my physical therapy exercises and took a hot shower. By the end of the shower my right leg was very uncomfortable so I took a low dose muscle relaxer and covered my leg, knee and back with CBD Medic’s Arthritis Cream.
One more day.
So now, as promised, let me offer some thoughts on podcasts. The teenager and I compared notes on our Spotify end-of-year wrap up and she thought she was impressive with 17,000 minutes since we started using the service in mid-year. I have 88,000+.
MY FAVORITE PODCASTS I LISTENED TO SO FAR THIS WEEK:
This one surprises me. The Ellen Fisher Podcast. She’s a very interesting person with her journey to raise her own food in Hawaii with her brood of plant-based kids and interest in all things calm and positive. I don’t really don’t know how I feel about her podcast — but I recently listened to her episode on Mind Change. It was an interesting discussion of neuroscience facts blended with alternative healing techniques to deal with personal trauma to heal the body of disease and mental illness. The guests on the show discuss their experience that illness, whether physical or mental, is the body manifesting trauma that the person has refused to acknowledge and heal.
The Daily. I often force myself to listen to the Daily even when the topics don’t interest me. This week I found myself pleasantly surprised by their coverage of Stephen Sondheim’s death.
Snacks Daily. Snacks Daily is a brief podcast from Robin Hood, yes the investment folks. It’s an economic summary of course, but it also provides humor and the business side of the news.
I finished Sh**hole Countries by Radiotopia. The American host on that show grapples with the possibility that her Ghanaian parents want her to move to Ghana. Enjoyable but also not what I expected. The host uses much of her platform to talk about her queerness and human rights.
The Shit No One Tells You About Writing. Very useful and broad tips about writing, critiquing and publishing.
Africa Daily just did a good episode on fistula. I found that a surprising topic. I’m impressed. (Though they did not mention the prevalence of female genital cutting and its impact on the rate of fistula.)
Other notables: Power Hugh Hefner, American Scandal The Lewinsky Affair, Operator, Against the Odds Rock Climbers Abducted.
Tonight was the last official night of “Midnight Society” at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy and they closed the warehouse at 7:30 p.m.
I say last “official” night because I just heard from my supervisor (at least until the new shift starts Sunday) and my favorite security guard/philosopher that there are a handful of people who can’t transition until after Christmas— and Stitch Fix will let them continue working their traditional hours until then.
That was a really nice move on the business’s part. Too nice in my opinion. I have squeezed a couple months of doctors appointments, tests and physical therapy into two weeks. So part of me is a little jealous.
We start our new work arrangement Sunday.
In other news, my blind friend Nancy and I both had physical therapy today. And Aîné and Brigid of the Celtic Pride got spayed so they are ready for adoption!
But back to physical therapy. Nan and I went together. She’s having issues with her shoulder and numbness in her finger.
I have pain in my spine and fall a lot.
I had to ride a stationary bike for eight minutes. She warmed up on a hand contraption.
I did my Cobra poses, and my physical therapist did that thing where he presses on my spine as if pushing it back into place.
I did deadlifts with a 20 lb kettlebell. I had to lay on my stomach and bend my leg at the knee and lift it off the table. That was harder than it sounds.
I stood on a soft cushion square and moved my leg out using my hip while keeping my knee soft. I also did that kicking back.
I did bridges.
I took a giant ball, held it to the wall with my back, and squared as low as I could.
Meanwhile some teenager stood on a balance ball on one leg, tossed a ball onto a trampoline and caught it ALL while standing on one leg.
I can stand on one leg for nine seconds.
On the floor.
This kid was standing on a ball meant to destabilize you.
And throwing a ball.
I am in total envy.
Meanwhile Nan was teaching the staff to read Braille and how to use a white cane.
And the staff was heartily confused at the fact that friends would come to physical therapy together.
After physical therapy, I turned to Nan. “You what to come to my house for grilled cheese?”
Her answer was a hearty yes. I made hers with Colby Jack, Cheddar and Lebanon Bologna and mine with habanero cheddar and Vevan vegan mozza-melts.
The mozza-melts taste and melt like real cheese, but sadly they have no protein. At all. So while they are a cruelty free version of cheese, they have no nutritional value.
I drank four cups of coffee yesterday and three of them were Supercoffee, so does that make it seven?
My back is feeling much better with all my cobra poses and stretches as prescribed by the physical therapist. (Nan and I have our sessions tomorrow. Nan expects she will be released. I suspect my routine will become more elaborate.)
This is the last week that Stitch Fix will run its second shift “Midnight Society” as has offered flexible scheduling to allow us to transition to day shift. For many of us, each night we say goodbye to friends because we are going to different departments and different shift variations. I will be doing the 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift Sunday through Wednesday but I am staying in women’s outbound. I received an email from my new supervisor, and it made me a little teary because my current supervisor is the person who hired me.
I have elected to work 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. this week and have successfully gone to bed as early as 10:30 p.m. and roused as early as 6:30. The average seems to be 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. but as my old sleep schedule was roughly 1:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., it is progress. I expect Sunday to be brutal for all of us, especially for those of us older than 30.
To be safe, I bought more Supercoffee. The teenager is already asking if I will feed the cats before I go to work. The answer for now is I may need a few days before I can adjust to having that much responsibility at 5 a.m.
“I don’t know if they are going to allow that,” she replied.
My daily step count is coming in between 4,000 and 6,000. I suppose some of that is due to partial shifts at the Bizzy Hizzy warehouse and working women’s returns. I stand still in QC, but apparently in Returns I stand even more still. In QC, at least I have to move the carts around every 25-30 minutes. The physical therapist also gave me some hints for my aching spine based on my job in QC, so being in Returns this week has not allowed me to try them.
And murmurs have started about voluntary overtime. For those of us moving to ten hour shifts, any overtime means we will have to work on our days off.
Book sales have been slow lately (so please consider my books as Christmas gifts. They can be purchased from me. For more information on how to do that, click here.) but I also have not dedicated any time to marketing and have fallen behind in my social media and outreach plan. But, as I have received one $20 check from Lafayette College for novels of mine on sale at the College Store, I have filed the paperwork with the state to incorporate Parisian Phoenix Publishing Company and to claim the fictitious name.
My weight might be down 5 lbs. That’s an unhealthy number for one week into weight loss. In my past experience, when I make healthy choices and track my macros, there is always an encouraging initial dip. I expect the next five to take much longer. And that’s fine. I’m looking for a trend toward healthier habits and increasing muscle and range of motion.
With the groceries currently in the house, it’s hard to keep my protein intake as high as I would like. My diet tends to be heavy on fat. Not necessarily sweets/fat but fats like nuts, avocado, and half and half in my coffee. Yesterday my macros hit 50% carbs, 20% protein and 30% fat. I’m aiming for 40/40/20. It looks like my weekly average is 40/25/35. I’m also aiming for 1300 calories, and doing well on that.
My protein intake is all over the place. Saturday came in at 120 grams (thank you leftover Thanksgiving turkey). Subsequent days have ranged from 65-85 grams, with 70 being more typical. It’s hard, as I’m not a big meat eater.
So I need to start doing some serious meal planning and keeping lean protein sources around.
I’m going to go get dressed for the gym now, and hopefully make some time for that marketing plan.
I hope this weekend to partake in some fun activities and lighthearted blog posts, but I also need to do some administrative work for my publishing company, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.
My second novel in the Fashion and Fiends series, Courting Apparitions, releases officially November 29 (my co-founder’s birthday) and could possibly be available Black Friday. Like, damn, when did that happen?
On everyday life and health front, I went to the chiropractor yesterday and like my doctor she approved of my new technique of changing work tables to try and even out my sides. I stopped at the pharmacy and picked up my prescription for muscle relaxer. I also made my last Purple Carrot meal in the fridge: mango glazed roasted vegetables with tahini butter.
Worked went mediocre/well. The night seemed long and boring and I felt like I was getting used to my body again after the chiropractor. I QCed at about 83%.
I came home and several cats were waiting for me— including Minerva, a sweet foster who started in our second foster litter of kittens, The Roman Pride.
I took a muscle relaxer to see how it impacted my pain and my morning stiffness. It didn’t make me loopy and I think it helped with my tossing and turning.
I only got six and a half hours of sleep last night, but still managed to meet up with the teenager my trainer Dan at Apex Training to lift some weights. I felt so much more limber after. The teenager easily did 105 on the barbell deadlift and 95 on the squat. I could lift the 105 but not execute the lift. My squat form is still adjusted for my limited range of motion in my lower body so I maxed out at 85 while the teen hardly had to put any effort into it.